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SIGNAL Magazine

Customs and Border Protection Agency Eyes the Cloud

February 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. agency responsible for customs and border protection has suffered from an unreliable infrastructure and network downtimes but already is seeing benefits from a fledgling move to cloud computing. Those benefits include greater reliability and efficiency and lower costs.

Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) priorities include moving the agency to cloud computing and adopting greater use of mobile devices. The CBP Cloud Computing Environment (C3E) moves the agency away from a number of stovepipe platforms. “In the past, we’ve run about every kind of platform that’s out there. We are a large IBM mainframe legacy shop. We use a lot of AIX Unix and also Solaris Unix, so we’ve even got different flavors of Unix out there, and then obviously, big Windows farms,” reveals Charlie Armstrong, CBP chief information officer and assistant commissioner for the office of information and technology. “This new environment that we’re moving to collapses a lot of that down into a single environment and loses all of the mainframe, and it gets us out of building environments from scratch.”

Armstrong describes CBP as being in the early stages of its move to the cloud, but the agency already is seeing benefits, he says. He compares creating a computing environment to building cars. “Building an environment with yesterday’s approach was like going to the car dealership, buying all the parts and having to put the car together yourself. Now, what we’re trying to do is to buy a fully integrated product that allows us to stand up environments quicker and also improve performance,” he explains.

Almost
 As Real As
 Disaster Gets

February 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

Emergency responders working under U.S. Air Forces Europe are preparing to receive an advanced simulation trainer that they expect will greatly improve the realism and efficacy of their training. Though procured mainly for firefighters, the system can be employed to exercise many types of crisis situations. Other organizations around the world already are using it for different purposes while benefitting from one another’s efforts. Anytime one user makes an improvement, that knowledge is shared with everyone, creating a constantly evolving capability.

The Advanced Disaster Management Simulator (ADMS) will allow U.S. Air Forces Europe (USAFE) the opportunity to train more realistically on the task of putting out aircraft fires than current or previous tools, according to Master Sgt. Joey R. Meininger, USAF, the fire emergency services program manager for USAFE and Air Forces Africa. He explains that the system will allow personnel to see what happens when an aircraft goes ablaze, training them for events that planners cannot reproduce. With the ADMS, users can simulate all forms of response from the minute emergency personnel receive the call about the problem through the end of the programmed event, including simulating the experience of driving to the emergency location. Incident commanders can immediately see the various effects their decisions have on situations. Once the commander assigns tasks, personnel will perform their actions in the simulated environment, giving everyone a chance to observe how choices influence events. The system will record each piece of input to help determine whether or not decisions were correct.

Depot Service Changes With Technology

February 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The march of digitization has changed the mission of a longtime U.S. Army maintenance and repair depot from fixing broken radio systems in a warehouse to supporting troops using the newest software-driven communications devices in the field. This support ranges from testing or even manufacturing new gear in partnership with industry to integrating new information systems in combat zones.

The Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pennsylvania, has had to evolve with the changes in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems in the information age. Changes in technologies and capabilities have been matched by the increasingly rapid pace of technology insertion into the force. The servicing of digital technology has expanded into new fields of operation.

Test facilities evaluate communications security, range threat testing, fire detection radars and satellite communications terminals for the Army as well as for other services. A rapid prototyping machine allows small additive manufacturing on plastics for prototyping. And, an Army language lab that can be deployed overseas helps military personnel in various countries around the world learn English so that they can train on U.S. systems and interoperate with their U.S. counterparts.

While the depot’s mission is defined as providing the overhaul, manufacturing and technology insertion services for C4ISR equipment, its activities extend into other areas that are increasing in importance in the digitized force.

“We keep the equipment going,” declares its commander, Col. Gerhard P.R. Schröter, USA.

NASA Leverages 
Video Game
 Technology for Robots and Rovers

February 11, 2013
By Max Cacas

Earthbound technologies and computer programming that make most popular video games possible are driving development of the remote-controlled robots now in use by NASA in the unmanned exploration of Mars and the solar system. Those improvements in both hardware and software also spur innovation in the next generation of robots envisioned for use by government and industry. That is important because NASA recently has proposed a new, multiyear program of sending robot explorers to Mars, culminating in the launch of another large scientific rover in the year 2020.

“The technologies and the software that the video game industry has developed for rendering data, scenes, terrain—many of the same visualization techniques and technologies are infiltrating into the kinds of software that we use for controlling spacecraft,” according to Jeff Norris, manager of the Planning and Execution Systems Section with NASA’S Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. In a similar way, joysticks and gaming consoles such as the Microsoft XBox Kinect are examples of gaming technology hardware that have functional analogues in the systems used to control robotic spacecraft.

What Color Is Your Money?

February 1, 2013
By Lt. Ben Kohlmann, USN

The Defense Department has a spending problem and must be reined in. The solution, however, goes far beyond simplistic budget cutting efforts such as across-the-board sequestration. It involves a fundamental cultural shift from both our appropriators and our subordinate-level commanders.

The past 10 years have been a financial boon for the military. This was true even as the rest of the U.S. economy was beset by recession and increasing unemployment. In 2001, the Defense Department base budget was $290.5 billion (in fiscal year 2012 dollars). By 2011, this amount had risen to $526.1 billion, excluding the funding required to sustain the Iraq and Afghan wars.

Beyond the rapid increase in the overall budget, a more pervasive and concerning trend exists: the incredible waste and inefficiency brought by established interests more concerned with keeping the spigot of money flowing than with winning wars.

Part of this is because of the ease with which the military has received unfettered access to our nation’s treasure. Because it is politically unpatriotic to question the military—and by extension, the appropriations it requests—Congress has acquiesced in pouring money into anything earmarked defense. Ironically, many of the same politicians who decry throwing money at education to improve schools hardly bat an eye when doing the same for defense.

Additionally, the constancy and security of military funding psychologically insulates the recipients of such largess from the realities of a constrained resource environment. This can lead to indifference when managing resources, especially those funded by “other people’s money”—in this case, the U.S. taxpayer.

Joint Range Tailors Cyber Training to Warfighter Needs

February 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

A cyberspace operations facility grows with the burgeoning mission.

The U.S. Defense Department’s network operations training and education capabilities must continually evolve in the ever-shifting cyber realm. To meet that need, one of the department’s premier cyber ranges harnesses the power of simulation to support a full array of training, education, certification and military exercises for the warfighters.

The Joint Cyberspace Operations Range (JCOR) provides cyberspace operators and others the ability to train in realistic environments. The operators gain hands-on experience in protecting, defending and fighting in the networked arena without impacting real-world operational networks.

The JCOR allows users to connect disparately located cyber training systems from different services or agencies. The level of connections can vary depending on the users’ needs. “There are different ways of interfacing or integrating. We’re able to do, in many cases, both interfacing and integrating,” says Thomas May, technical project lead for the U.S. Air Force’s Simulator Training and Exercise (SIMTEX) range, which is the Air Force portion of JCOR. “If need be, we have been able to take the assets that other capabilities can provide and integrate them together so that they are actually components of our network.”

Teamwork Defines Homeland Security Success

February 1, 2013
by Kent R. Schneider

Homeland Security and the global effort against terrorism are incredibly complex activities. The organizations and individuals are just as complex. The homeland security establishment in the United States—as the collection of government agencies at the federal, state, local and tribal levels and the affected industries are referred to—numbers in the thousands of entities. There are 22 agencies in the Department of Homeland Security along with numerous others at the federal level, including the Department of State, the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, the intelligence community and many others. Now add in the Homeland Security agencies, law enforcement agencies and other first responders at the state, local and tribal levels. Still more complex is the industrial base that supports the homeland security establishment and those in industry that own and/or operate the critical infrastructure in the United States.
 

In case those outside the United States are breathing a sigh of relief that they do not have to put up with such a structure, they should not be so hasty. Most other nations have similarly complex national structures, and Europe also has the security apparatus of the European Union.

So what hope is there that this complex structure could work to provide the necessary security? This truly is a team effort. The team is international, as countries necessarily share information on possible threats. A tremendous amount of information sharing and coordination takes place continuously. The many threat vectors require a multidisciplinary approach.

The Future of 
First Responder
 Communications

February 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

Public safety personnel are standing at the beginning of a new era in communications as plans unfurl to create a nationwide broadband network dedicated to their needs. With many questions yet to be resolved, organizations must contend with making the right choices for today even as they prepare to take advantage of advanced future offerings.

The Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network will be based on a single, national network architecture and is intended to help police, firefighters, emergency medical service professionals and other public safety officials perform their jobs better. The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), an independent authority under the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), will hold the spectrum license for the network along with responsibility to build, deploy and operate it, in consultation with federal, state, tribal and local public safety entities and other key stakeholders. “The burden is on FirstNet to bring public safety a robust and rich network that meets responders’ needs, and this must be done in a manner that’s very cost effective,” says Sam Ginn, chairman of the FirstNet Board. “That’s our goal and mission, and we intend to succeed for public safety.”

Better Visibility for Border Security

February 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

U.S. officials tasked with securing routes into and out of the country are beginning to employ a technology that will pull together disparate information in a way that could save their lives or the lives of others. Though it was not designed exclusively for agents trying to control international movements, these personnel are early adopters, using the system to prevent illicit goods, undesirable persons or rampant violence from making its way over national boundaries.

The Global Information Network Architecture (GINA) is a system of systems that draws in information from many stovepiped sources regardless of their coding or programming. Originally, GINA was developed through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) and Xslent LLC Technologies. The work since has transferred to a CRADA between Big Kahuna Technologies LLC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering Research and Development Center. The NPS now works with GINA through a version licensed to the U.S. government or through a standing contract with Big Kahuna Technologies for the DOD [Defense Department] Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Process version.

GINA employs a hybrid methodology that leverages model-based architecture and component-based development—two major approaches to contemporary software development. According to a paper titled “GINA: System Interoperability for Enabling Smart Mobile System Services in Network Decision Support Systems,” written by project personnel, both approaches aim at reducing, if not eliminating, the amount of coding required to develop a system.

Sensor, Listening
 Device Integration
 Provide Battlefield Intelligence Boon

February 1, 2013
By Clarence A. Robinson Jr.

Industry opens up an array of real-time imaging

Sweeping advances in sensor technologies are enabling wide-area airborne persistent surveillance on both manned and unmanned aircraft. Emerging sensor systems can provide high-resolution mosaic imagery for large swaths of the battlefield while focusing on individual objects.

These intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) sensor systems are winning their spurs on the battlefield in Afghanistan. They are meeting combat commanders’ urgent operational requirements to provide city-size area coverage. These sensors simultaneously can focus on and track individual vehicles and dismounted hostiles.

Sensor systems such as the Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance-Imaging System (ARGUS-IS) offer radical improvements for ISR. This sensor system was developed for special operations by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). BAE Systems provides the optics and processing technologies. Argus was envisioned to be mounted in a pod on the A-160 Hummingbird (SIGNAL Magazine, June 2007, page 43, “High Hover”) unmanned rotary wing aircraft headed for Afghanistan. However, an A-160 crash during trials prior to deployment is delaying the move.

Testing with the sensor pod mounted on a Sikorsky Blackhawk helicopter continues before combat deployment. This slight deployment delay also is enabling incorporating more recent advances in both sensor and processing technologies. ARGUS-IS also may be mounted on other unmanned aircraft, such as the MQ-9 Reaper, extending time on station. The camera is being considered for additional multiple wide-area persistent surveillance programs.

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